How Travel Directly Influences Design


July 7, 2023


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John McClain is an accomplished interior designer, speaker, writer, and on-air contributor who has turned his lifetime passion for interior design into an opportunity to do the same for others.

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Are you planning any summer getaways?  Vacation is essential for our productivity and general well being, but it is also critical for our creativity and imaginative inspiration.  In my travels, I have absorbed innumerable artistic influences and expanded my vision of beauty and possibility.


While visiting Greece, my husband and I strolled past a vendor selling embroidered pillow covers reminiscent of Pablo Picasso’s cubist portraiture.   It took me all of 5 minutes to know I had to turn back and buy those pillows.  These items then in turn inspired the design of my LA pied a terre.


Come journey with me while I share other travel inspirations and their ultimate results.


While reminiscent of a Pompeian bath house the main bath of my Los Angeles home was actually inspired by Harrods Food Hall in London.  The masterful mingling of marbles left me in awe, as did the addition of brass accents and chunky legged pilasters and stools.

This stunning powder bath has been one of our best received designs, but it all began years prior during a visit to the Regents Park Underground in London.  The walls of the station are clad in  luminous deep green tiles that undulate with color and texture.  I knew instantly that this inspiration would serve me well in my future designs.  The ultimate results are a gorgeous powder bath people can’t stop talking about.


Did you all know I am also a furniture designer? In addition to the custom pieces we design for clients every day, I also had a successful line of lighting, furnishings, and accessories called Gilded Home. This black leather bed I designed is constructed with intersecting slabs inspired by a visit to Stonehenge in Salisbury England. The simplistic but artistic combination of organic and geometric lines really spoke to me and I just knew I would have to pay homage someday.


We are all familiar with the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles France, but how do you interpret the classical design with a modern eye?  In this extended main bedroom entry, I chose to emulate the hall of mirrors juxtaposed to my client’s modern photography collection.  This not only moves endless amounts of light through the space but also doubles the impact of the art.


While dining at the amazing La Gare Restaurant in Paris I couldn’t take my eyes off the lighting installation above my head. Orbs of luminescence varied in dimension and altitude. The effect was enchanting, and I stored this inspiration away for the perfect opportunity. In this client’s home, a catwalk was begging for large, custom, lighting fixtures. My mind immediately returned to that wonderful time in Paris, and I knew exactly what was needed.


It’s not just international travel that can inspire. America too has endless amounts of art, architecture, and natural vistas to inspire the imagination. If you have had the pleasure to visit New York City and taken the tour of Ellis Island, then no doubt you are familiar with the herringbone tiled vaulted ceiling of the Registry Room at Ellis Island. This grand hall was the very first space immigrants were exposed to in their new land. After weeks confined to overcrowded ships, imagine the wonder stepping into this glorious and impressive room.



In the historic Larchmont neighborhood of Los Angeles, the entry of this 1921 old Hollywood stunner was slathered with mother of pearl herringbone tile. The results are ethereal. When we shared the inspiration of this design with our client, she clutched her chest and told us her own relatives had come to this country through Ellis Island.


Wherever you go and whatever you do this summer, look around for beauty, inspiration, and food for the imagination. You never know where it will lead you.

Till Next Time,

Happy Designs!

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John McClain is an accomplished interior designer, speaker, writer, and on-air contributor who has turned his lifetime passion for interior design into an opportunity to do the same for others.

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